Last year I warned of the possibility that Prime Minister Theresa May would go for a snap general election in either the spring or autumn of 2017 prior to the beginning of the serious Brexit negotiations. As it happens, the logic of calling an early general election has clearly become overwhelming for the Conservative leader, with the general election to be held on Thursday 8 June.
On the face of it, the outcome appears to be a forgone conclusion. The opinion polls all show that the Conservative Party has a strong and consistent lead over the Labour Party, with a Yougov poll showing the Tories with a massive lead of 48%, versus a second place Labour party, at 24%. As long standing readers of this blog know, surface polling should be read in conjunction with deeper underlying polling of the electorate to get an accurate sense of the public mood. What does the underlying polling data tell us?
According to the Yougov polling data, the Tories have a commanding lead on the critical issue of economic competence, with a 24% lead on this issue. When it comes to leadership, 54% of the electorate think that Theresa May makes the best Prime Minister compared to only 15% for Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour party. On the two most critical issues for the average voter, perceptions of economic competence and leadership calibre, the Conservatives are massively ahead in the polls.
The underlying polling data provides little to no comfort to supporters of Jeremy Corbyn and would indicate that the Conservative lead in the polls is durable and not a mirage. However, there are a number of factors that could contain any potentially huge increase in the Conservative majority. The first is low turnout by soft Tory voters who may feel that there is little point of turning up at the ballot box since Labour has no realistic chance of winning the election. This would be amplified if they voted Remain during the Brexit referendum as Theresa May has embraced the Brexit cause since coming to power.
The Liberal Democrats are likely to see a revival in their fortunes since their electoral drubbing in the 2015 general election. The Liberals have become the go to option for those voters angry about the Brexit result and who wish to attempt to reverse the decision to exit the European Union. The Liberals are likely to regain seats from the Tories in London as well as the south-west. Tactical voting by Remain voters, some of them soft Tory’s, could impact seats in the affluent south of the country.
The Conservatives hope to gain dozens of Labour marginal seats where majorities voted to leave the European Union. Considering the dire state of the Labour party this is likely and will compensate for the potential loss of seats to the pro-European Liberals. The anti-EU UKIP party is crumbling in the polls as its supporters defect to the pro-Brexit Tories. The combination of the return of UKIP voters and Leave voting soft Labour voters should be sufficient to turn a considerable number of Labour seats blue on 8 June.
Whilst the possibility of a Labour government is not impossible, it seems highly unlikely as a political outcome, taken the above factors into consideration. My forecast is a Conservative victory with an enlarged majority but it is too early to predict how big the majority may be.
Should Jeremy Corbyn perform better then expected during the campaign, the current talk of a landslide victory of over a 100 seats will look increasingly out of touch should the polls start to narrow. A major gaffe by the Labour leader could lead to a further collapse in Labour support (down to 20%) and push the Tories close to or above 50%, leading to the possibility of a 1997 style defenestration of the Labour party.
I will provide an updated forecast of the British general election result as the campaign develops.
1st round French presidential election forecast
The 1st round of the French presidential election race is nearing this Sunday 23rd April and the polls indicate that all four main candidates have a reasonable chance of getting into the second round.
I recently wrote that the reader should prepare for the unexpected and I consider this still to be the case. At the beginning of the year I warned that there was a possibility that Marine Le Pen (“Le Pen”) may not get to the second round, which was one of the reasons why I only gave a 60% probability chance of Le Pen winning the French presidency. This is one of a number of possible scenarios, including Melenchon getting into the final two or Fillon performing better then expected which could happen this weekend.
I wasn’t planning to forecast the likely winners of the 1st round due to the extraordinary volatility of the French electorate and the difficulty of picking out the winners of a crowded four horse race. This remains the case.
However, my reading of the French electorate does indicate to me that on a balance of probabilities the most likely outcome of the 1st round will be Le Pen winning with Fillon coming second. Please note that this is a very tentative forecasting prediction and all four main candidates, Le Pen, Fillon, Macron and Melenchon have a plausible chance of getting into the second round.
The reason why I think that Le Pen and Fillon may have the edge is that France profonde, conservative, patriotic and the backbone of French society, will turn out in force for both Le Pen and Fillon. Both candidates have committed supporters and for different reasons feel deeply alienated and angry about the direction the country is going.
The Bloomberg article on the provincial town of Donzy may prove to be a canary in a coal mine.
Of course, I may be wrong and if I am honest, this has been the toughest forecast to make to date since launching the FI blog. We will find out on Sunday if my forecast turns out to be correct.
Whatever happens, I recommend preparing for the unexpected.